BOOM! I’m on a Roll

This post will be short(ish) and sweet. I’ve been in a little bit of a writing slump as of late. Not necessarily because I don’t have any ideas, but rather, I do not have much free time to write. However, over the last couple of days I’ve been able to sneak in a couple of hours of writing time. It’s not much, but it is a start.

Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map has just re-hit 30,000 words (part of the whole ‘it’s been done before’ episode I referenced a little while ago). It was a satisfying feeling, and I have promised myself No more massive changes – until I reach the editing phase, at least.

This story is shaping up to be a bit more complicated than its predecessor. It has an A plot and a B plot! I’ve got two teams from the ship on two different islands, having two separate adventures; I even have figured out how the two plots will converge in the finale. Mostly. But I still have time to work out the particulars while I’m working on the writing.

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My mysterious island inspiration…or my fantasy vacation getaway location.

I have been inspired, of late, by some classic Victorian adventure fiction. In particular, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. No, there will be no Dinosaurs or fantastic creatures involved. however, I’m aiming for a sense of “otherness” for the island locales. I like the idea of unexplored islands, and the secrets they might contain, within the confines of an adventure story. I have a couple of ideas I’m fleshing out in the story right now, and I’m excited to share them once the story is finally finished.

Despite the setbacks that life has thrown my way lately, I remain determined to get at least one story out before the end of the year, two if I set my mind firm in the task of completing my projects. I am now off to continue writing a bit before bed…after I gaze at tropical islands for a few more minutes.

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Dog Days of Summer

This was a busy week. My writer’s existence was quite at odds with my day job existence. For one of my jobs, we had a major update that was going to go through on our system At noon today. So I had to get about six days worth of work done in about four and a half days. I managed to finish up with about an hour to spare, so I had a free afternoon. I thought I might find a nice shady spot and spend some time writing on my laptop. I went outside, and immediately said to myself, “No, not happening.” We were well into 90+ degree weather today, and my muse was apparently burned to a crisp on the pavement.

Instead, I opted to find a quiet, air-conditioned environment to spend some quality writing time. Writing time, quality or not, has lately been scarce in my life. Summer always seems to throw a bunch at me at once. But I won’t complain. I know that I am lucky to have steady work. It’s work that I enjoy, to boot. And if there are a couple of weeks here and there where writing time is scarce, then I will make do with what time I do have. and today I was able to get in about an hour and a half before I had to punch in for job number two.

Although I haven’t had much time to write, I am still trying to maintain some level of creativity and entertainment in my life. I spent the majority of the last rainy weekend reading, writing, and binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix. I think I may have a new favorite show. I may even do a review in a couple of weeks. I definitely need to sit down and watch it again before I attempt that, though.

My reading list has been woefully neglected since my vacation. I finished reading A Game of Thrones, which I enjoyed quite a bit.I then learned, while looking at my recommendations, that Cherie Priest’s Chapelwood the sequel to Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches  has come out. I loved that story, so I will be purchasing and reading the new book as soon as I can. But I think I may need to reread the first book, just so that I can be fully prepared.

And, of course, I’m back into my writing. After hitting a few walls, realizing that a few of my plotlines just do not work, I am finally in a place where things are back on track. Dette and the crew of the Morning Star are back on their adventurous, peril-filled track, A long-dead Sci-Fi story is back, reshaped, and less exposition-angsty, and I’m working on an outline for another story. I must be inspired, because I abhor outlines. I generally find it too difficult to stick to the outline once I begin writing. My characters do not like to listen once I’ve begun the writing process. It is a battle to not let them completely take over the story.  Of course, there is always the chance that the exact same thing will happen with this story. I am the worst at reining my characters in. But that is ok. they usually do a better job at advancing the plot than I do, anyway.

 

 

Writing Setbacks: It’s Been Done Before

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I sit at my laptop, typing merrily away. The story is humming along, characters are positioned and playing their roles. Everything is just where I want it to be.  Then the little voice appears. It whispers, taunting. “That bit you just wrote – yeah, the part where she is fighting valiantly when the sword is knocked from her hands – yeah, that part right there? It’s been done before. A lot. Oh how I hate that little voice. The voice of self-doubt.

I reread the chapter I just wrote. The voice is right. It has been done before. Much more eloquently by better authors. It isn’t identical, but it is familiar. Contrived.  Granted, the little voice is really all in my head, I know that. But it is so damned smug. So satisfied with itself for taking me down a peg or three. I scroll through what I’ve written and consider my options. If I was the same Jason of about five years ago, one of two things would have happened.

Option 1:  I would have read the passage again, shrugged my shoulders and continued on. There was a time when I didn’t care if something was cliché. Then, when I was finished with the writing project, I would have begun to edit, seen all of the same old, same old elements in the story, throw my hands in the air, and tossed the manuscript in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. I have packing box filled with these types of manuscripts, a source of great shame to me.

Option 2:  About two years ago, I would have panicked. It is too common. Every story about pirates has that moment in the story where the hero or heroine is overpowered or outsmarted, and momentarily all appears to be lost. Again, I would probably try, in futility, to salvage the moment, try to make it different, new, and exciting. I would inevitably fail, and frustrated, the manuscript would end up in my box of shame.  Either way, the result would be the same.

But here’s the thing. I am older, and (marginally) wiser. Humans have been telling stories for as long as we have had the ability to speak. There are nearly no truly original moments left to tell. Everything is a variation on, or a twisting of other ideas, other stories. We have our ideas, we put them down on paper or disk, and give the old stories our own spin. Whether it is the hero’s journey, the haunted house, the thrilling tale of adventure, journeying across a distant land, The bones of the story have been laid bare hundreds of thousands of times. It is up to the teller of the story to make it new and exciting for the person listening to or reading the story. I have begun to realize this, and now I can look at my projects and decide if the element should stay in my story.

I kept that element once (Or, more accurately, a similar moment). It gave me the desired effect. Alright, it was a little clichéd, but I weighed the pros and cons and decided for the story I wanted to tell, the moment of pseudo-danger the heroine was in kept my interest, and I was pleased with the ultimate resolution.  In my new project, The “knocked-away sword” moment was a little too much. It didn’t advance the plot quite the way I needed it to, and my main character was not supposed to be in quite the same type of danger. Ultimately, I feel my story is better for the excision. I lost about two days worth of work, but the passage works now, where before I was not at all confident.

Writing setbacks happen. I have found that during my writing journey over the last several years, I have begun to deal with them in a more productive fashion. It is easy to lock the project away and tell yourself it was no good, or that it has been done a million times before. It is so much better to think about your project. If you really want to tell the story, there is a way to make it work. Your story will be so much better for it. Plus, the feeling of accomplishment when you write the closing words of your story is truly amazing. Then you take a breath and smile. Then you realize that only about half the work is done. Now comes the proof reading, editing, and rewrites. But I find that I am still smiling. One step closer to publication.

One step closer.

 

 

 

So Many Books, So Little Time

I just returned from a week-long trip to Maine on Sunday. After weeks of 80+ degrees, it was nice to pass the time in the woods by a lake where, at best, the temperature barely broke 65 degrees. It was heaven!  I was even able to get a little writing done. I would have gotten more done, but I made the massive mistake of bringing my Kindle.

I feel bad for her. I’ve downloaded who knows how many hundreds of books and short stories, yet I rarely have time to sit down and do any significant amount of reading. But I decided I would make my way through my “novels I’ve been dying to read, but due to my short attention span, will probably never get to” list.

The first order of business was finishing The Scarlet Letter. It was a bet I made with myself over a year ago. The book, to me at least, is tedious. But I finally made it through. After that, I decided to treat myself with something I’ve wanted to read. After years of waiting, and watching some of the T.V. series, I cracked open (figuratively) the Song of Ice and Fire series. As of This afternoon during my lunch break I am a two-thirds of the way through A Game of Thrones. I was worried, because my last attempt to read epic fantasy was The Wheel of Time novels. That did not go so well. I am pleased to report that I am eagerly anticipating finishing the first book by next week, and shortly thereafter beginning book 2. Alright, GRRM, bring it on, I can take it.  By the way, for the fantasy fans, have you read these books? If so, what are your thoughts?

On the writing front, both of my major projects are humming along…slowly (I know, huge shock, right?). I’ve also been working on couple of short story ideas when I am having trouble, creatively. They are two Sci-Fi shorts, and are wonderful for getting the creative juices flowing. Whether they will ever see the light of day, or be expanded upon, I cannot say, but they let me put some of my crazier ideas down, get them out of my system, so my projects don’t get too silly.

I’ve been playing around a bit with some of the settings in Scrivener, which is my writing platform of choice, and I think I may have it customized nearly to where I like it. While I love a lot of its features, I miss some of the other features I had with my previous writing software, WriteitNow. I have the newest version of WriteitNow (WriteitNow5) in the shopping cart, and have been contemplating making the purchase, just to see what the new version offers, and if it is worth the switch back. I may do a compare/contrast post in the future, should I decide to make the purchase. For those of you that use either/both pieces of software, what are your thoughts?

It has been a long first day back to work, but I figured that while I still had a little energy, I’d put a post up. It has been a little while, and I miss updating the blog. I have another update planned in the next couple of days, so check back soon.

My WIP – Who’s Who Part 2: New Faces

Age of Brass and Steam

When you write a short story, you occasionally find yourself with too much plot or too many characters. You are left with two options:  Either you expand the story so you can include the plot or characters, or you cut those elements out entirely.  As I was reaching the finish line for my first draft of Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates, I opted to cut out some of the extra plot at the end of the story, as it would have made my short story much longer. The spot where I ended the story felt more natural, so I cut the extra out, and pasted it into my “ideas” document, for possible use at a later date. As a result, a plot idea and a couple of characters were left to sit in obscurity until I brought them back.

For Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map, I…

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A Quick Break from Steampunk.

I’ve devoted a lot of time on this blog to my interest in alternate histories and steampunk. But I have other genres that interest me.  I even have pieces of written in those other genres. They are terrible,  and will likely never see the light of day,  but I have written them.

My major interests trend toward science fiction and fantasy,  which is a reason why steampunk appealed to me in the first place. Melding historical and fantastical, and a dash of science… Yes, please. My true magnum opus (if I can ever get the courage to do something more ambitious) is a space opera style story. I’ve got the characters,  the basic storyline,  and a few fun ideas. 

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Science fiction grants a writer the opportunity to literally create new world’s on the page for their readers –  alien world’s filled with creatures and dangers beyond our wildest imaginations. Then, flip the story,  make it personal,  relatable, allowing the reader to see that it doesn’t matter how my heads you have,  whether you are solid or vapor,  or what color your skin is, we all have hopes,  dreams,  fears,  and a will to survive. Plus,  I really love writing and reading about epic space battles.  I can’t help it,  I am basically a 12 year old in a 35 year old body.

In the interest of giving equal time to science fiction,  I thought about some of the things that I have done in my science fiction projects, and the rules I set for myself as a writer.

I try to make any technology in the story relatable to the reader. It’s purpose and use should be plausible,  given the level of technology in the story.  You shouldn’t have a race of primitive cave dwellers that have the ability to travel through space –  or perhaps you can –  as long as you can justify it within the confines of the story in a plausible way. Although, I don’t feel that it is always necessary to go into extreme levels of detail in the story as to the inner workings of a transmat device,  for example.  As in the real world, I imagine the majority of people would use such devices without knowing a great deal about the technology –  just a basic knowledge of how to operate it,  and what the desired outcome of using the device should be. Too much technical detail can bore the reader.

I try to stay consistent with the physics in your story. Is FTL travel a possibility?  Have other means of interstellar travel been invented?  Perhaps travelling through wormholes,  or the implementation of warp drives in your characters’ ships allows the travel between two distant stars. I have opted for the latter technologies in my project,  as I find travelling faster than the speed of light to be too much of a stretch of the imagination.

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With alien species,  I try to keep it diverse.  Sure,  there are lizard-like species in my story, grays, and even a small squirrel-like species,  adept at crawling through ductwork and repairing ships.  But all of those species are fairly humanoid; two arms,  two legs,  a head,  eyes, nose,  and mouth.  I have tried to add some newer elements.  I have a race of living electrical current., which has no physical form,  but can interact with the rest of the universe. I also have several silicon-based life forms I’m toying with. Since these are written works,  I don’t have to worry about special effects.  So the more out there,  the better.

In all seriousness,  I try to make them relatable. Fear of death unites us all. Working against a common enemy is another great uniter. However,  at the end of the day I try to do what all authors do: show the readers that despite our differences,  we have much in common.

Progress, at Last

Moving my story-specific posts here.

Age of Brass and Steam

Spring is here, the weather is nice…r, and inside the vast desert that is my mind, a tiny stream of creativity has just broken the surface. I have been dealing with a case of writer’s block of late, and only within the last couple of days have I been able to get some words on paper in one of my WIP.

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Outlining seems to be the key for me. Over the last week I have spent a massive amount of time working on Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map, from reading through what I’ve already written, outlining the story from the beginning, and now writing my way through the rest of the story. I’ve added about 3,000 words to the story,as well as trimmed some of the fat, so to speak. All told, I am now at almost 18,000 words, and I think I’m just about at the…

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Sunday Musings: Outlining, Productivity

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Planning or pulling it out of my...

Scenario: I am sitting at my desk at work,  and the system has crashed. I am contemplating all of the things I could be doing. There are still taxes to be done (I know,  I am awful.  But it’s hard to get anything done when you work two jobs). I could be putting my hours and expenses together for my other job, but I left that information at home. Or I could be sitting at home,  staring at my computer monitor –  or as I like to call it,  writing.

So I am sitting here with my small notebook,  scribbling down ideas for my WIP.  I am not much of an outline,  but I am resigning myself to the reality of my situation.  I am dangerously close to writing myself into a corner. So now I am carefully going through the entire plot and actually outlining and plotting!  And I am finding that I don’t totally hate it.

I have been an improviser when it comes to writing. Most of the time my best laid plans get thrown to the curb the second I start writing.  My characters have this nasty habit of taking on a life of their own.  I want Character A to keep watch while Character B breaks into the villain’s office to hack into his Computer. Character A decides she doesn’t want to miss out on the action,  so now no one is keeping with,  and both protagonists are investigating.

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I am no outlining master

However,  there are merits to a basic outline.  Which is where I am now. Not specific actions,  but ideas for goals for each scene, and of course,  the end goal for the entire story.  It is allowing my characters the freedom to do as they please,  as long as they follow the bread crumbs to the final outcome that I want to occur. Because sometimes you have to show your characters who is the boss. Who knows, maybe they’ll do what I want this time.

I’m also revisiting ways to remain productive and motivated.  I was researching some apps to help me set,  and keep writing goals. There seem to be a lot out there,  and I am at a bit of a loss as to which ones are any good. I have downloaded a couple,  but none of them have really been too helpful.  For the writers out there,  do you use any software for keeping track of your Writing goals (writing time, word count goals,  etc.)? Which ones do you recommend?

My final thought of the day is, thank God I brought my Kindle today.  At least I can catch up on my backlog of reading. Maybe I can finish something and write up a review. That should make the day a little more interesting.